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Manifesto for Microadventure: the Revolution Will Not be Motorised

Autumn in Paris

It is now a decade since I graduated from university and set out to try to live adventurously. I am fit and healthy, I spend time out in the wild, I have been to many places, and I make my living doing things I love.

Originally I wrote that last sentence differently. I wrote, “I am lucky: I am fit and healthy…”

But it’s not luck. Not really. It’s all about making choices, and then making them happen.

What I do feel fortunate about is that I have now reached a time when it feels appropriate to start making what I do a bit more useful and helpful to other people.

Here are a few statistics about western society.

  1. 60% of adults and 70% of children do insufficient physical activity1
  2. 60% of adults and 30% of children are overweight1
  3. 54% of people would like to take time out for an adventure or to travel3
  4. 90% of people do not feel that their current job is their vocation4
  5. 40% of people have not stood on a mountain or swum in natural water2

This is ridiculous. Ridiculous because it is all so fix-able:

  1. Turn off your TV and go for a run
  2. Eat less, run more
  3. Take time out and go on an adventure
  4. Quit your job and do something you love
  5. Climb a hill. Jump in a river

If you are fatter than you ought to be then the only person who can change that is you.
If you get out of breath walking up stairs and you’re under 60 then you need to do something about it. Now.
If you want to travel or do something different with your life it is up to you. Nobody can do it but you.

It is time for action. Time is ticking (click here to see the Death Clock). Time for me to start making an effort towards fixing these broken things that I care about very much.

I make my living from speaking and writing about the things that I do. I have a platform to preach from. And the time has come for me to practice what I preach.

So here is my manifesto for microadventure:

  • In a boring, pragmatic world I appreciate that not everyone can muster the time or the money to go on a massive, whoopeedoo expedition. But everyone, everyone, EVERYONE can manage a microadventure. And to prove how strongly I believe that microadventures are fulfilling, challenging and worthwhile I have decided to not plan any major expeditions for several months. Instead I will do a microadventure every month.
  • Each year I speak to thousands of schoolchildren about the thrill of expeditions in wild places. It has troubled me for a few years now that there is no formal follow-up to my visits to capitalise on the enthusiasm generated. This year I will make a concerted effort to set up a system for all the children I speak to to be offered the opportunity to have a wilderness experience of their own. [If anyone can help with this please get in touch]
  • My blogging will be more focussed. There will still be some space for travel ephemera, daft comedy, wonderful books, and poems to fire the soul. But mostly I will concentrate on doing what you love, making stuff happen, travel writing, microadventures, and how these are all inter-linked and related to the statistics above.

As always I value the combined knowledge and wisdom of all you out there, so please do let me know what you think, what I can do better and so on.

Wishing you all a challenging and rewarding year. Let the revolution begin!

1: The NHS
2: GoOutdoors
3: Survey by EsctheCity

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  1. I always enjoy reading your blog Al – keep up the good work!


  2. Gill Brown Posted

    Fantastic – look forward to hearing more. I wonder if there is a way of reaching the families of the children who are so inspired by your adventures. It’s parents/carers who have the power to nurture or dampen their enthusiasm. I discovered my love for adventure in my late 40’s after meeting one inspirational person and it went a long way to help me overcome my instinct to be overprotective towards my kids. Just wish it had happened 20 years earlier.

    • I think you are right, Gill. I suppose I hope that my blog can reach adults and my talks can reach young people. But I am aware that my blog is generally preaching to the converted so it’s not ideal.
      Suggestions welcome…

  3. Fighting talk Al! Your site is truly inspirational and really spurs me on to do more with my time…all that is required is effort and self belief. Thank you for strengthening my resolve, long may you continue to do so!

  4. Carl Cartlidge Posted

    I dig your style Al!

    You’ve just given me the kick up the backside needed to start the one hundred push ups program again. I abandoned it halfway through (just as I was getting good too) nearly 15 months ago :/

    Thanks for that.

  5. that last little statistic, wow. I spend so much of my free time standing on mountains, floating down rivers etc. Can’t really imagine what my life would be like without it

  6. Happy New Year Al,

    A good point well put Indeed !

    The year after the MdS I took part in a ski tour / exped in Norway retracing the route taken by the “Heroes of Telemark” and last year I nipped down to Oz for the North Face 100km race in the Blue Mountains but this year my challenge is a local one (well just the other side of the River Tweed anyway). Arriving at 42 years of age it seemed obvious to mark the year with a Bob Graham Round attempt – looking forward to the preparation as much as the 24 hours out on the hill.


  7. Further…

    – Our childrens generation are predicted to be the fist in history to have a lower life expectancy than that of our parents!
    – Diseases such as scurvy and rickets are returning in young people due to them not eating properly!

    Al… call me a nerd, but I collect cuttings from magazines, papers, etc from articles of how silly/scary/ridiculous the culture we are swimming in is. If you want any of this material for any of your work, let me know and I’ll email a batch your way.

    Lastly, on the subject of formal follow up of visits… with the DARE program in America (Drugs and Alcohol Resistance Education) for example, it was found that although kids were educated about drugs, they were not less likely to experiment. Not sure if your interested, but I could put you in touch with a friend (a Phd in developmental psychology) who’s done a lot of evals about the ‘usefulness’ of such programs. Although it’s not a contact for wilderness experiences, it sounds like your possibility interested in evaluating the shifts in attitudes of young people you speak to at a later date. Let me know…

  8. Happy New Year!

    Great post for the ‘Worst Day of the Year’ blues. Yet again a ‘why?’ post seems to have struck a nerve. Although I did need a break, doing very little for the last few days now seems somewhat of a waste.

    Have you tried to team up with existing national organisations? I assume these days that the bureaucracy involved in taking individual groups of kids out would be problematic, so why not take some info on or a rep from the local Scout group along, for example. (I’m not in the UK and the wrong side of 30 so there may be other, better options)

  9. Great post, Al. Sounds like you’re thinking some parallel thoughts to those running through my head, particularly re: getting kids outside. Who knows, perhaps some future potential for TransAtlantic collaboration…

  10. Rob Bough Posted

    Al, I fully agree with most of the sentiments in this post, except the one about being lucky to be fit and healthy. I have spent the last 25 years cycling, doing a couple of long tours, and also trekking, the last being Everest and Gokyo trek 2 years ago. I have since been struck with arthritis in both my knees which has severely curtailed my outdoors activities.
    Maybe I’m lucky it didn’t happen sooner or unlucky to get it at all, but i definitely think we should be grateful for good health.

    • Hi Rob,
      When I originally wrote this I intended to include a couple of sentences clarifying that being fit and healthy does include a good deal of luck. So thanks for flagging this up and reminding me to be grateful for my health.

  11. happy new year alastair

    just back from a hogmanay trip that contained a wee adventure. we’re already planning the next one. big trips are great but the little ones – and often all the laughter therein – keep me going through the year.

    enjoy reading your blog, looking forward to the monthly micro-adventures.

  12. Nicolas Posted

    Great manifesto!

  13. Thanks for the kick up the arse. I shall vow to you know to get on a bike tomorrow and get out for a hack. Life’s is busy and full (wife, three kids, mortgage, etc etc), and as you say there’s little chance of me disappearing for a bit. But it’s not impossible the ride my bikes and get away from it for a bit. Get the blood flowing and chase the lethargy away.

    Thanks for the reminder!

  14. Good work Al, consider the nail well struck.

  15. Thanks Al, for another inspiring read. You can count me in for your 2011 adventure revolution.

  16. I just wish children would go outside as much as my generation did. It seems as technology progresses less and less people go outside. A basketball and a goal is a great way to start!

  17. Tim Davies Posted

    I’m off to Afghanistan for 6 months Al, does that count as a microadventure, oh, and I’m looking at getting into bare-foot running whilst there (avoiding land-mines, of course)! Nice post, all true as per normal – glad to see you’re still doing well – Buffy sends her love buddy.

  18. Buffy Davies Posted

    Re Tim’s Comment.
    His A’stan microadventure is his job, so I reckon it doesn’t count!
    However, hugely inspired by your blog – I too had already planned to DO something exciting/different each month to pass the time – and now I’m even more motivated. He and I have a ‘who can get fitter fastest’ challenge over the next 6 months (he has an added advantage of a restricted, enforced alcohol-free diet whilst training at 6000ft).
    Your post summed up exactly what I wish I could say to some of my patients; I shall have to direct them to your blog for inspiration (and a kick up the backside!)

    • Hi Buffy,
      My aim for the year is to do a microadventure of some sort each month, so it seems as though we’re on a similar idea. Keep busy and the 6 months will whizz by.

  19. Great blog posting and very inspirational for the year ahead, looking forward to the micro adventures because they are usually achievable for us mortals who have to hold down a job yet still want to taste some adventure in our lives.

  20. I really got into the whole idea microadventures through 2010 after watching your DO Lecture. The result was one of the most exciting years I’ve had for a long time. I’ve always ridden, paddled and walked, but the idea of bivvying out before walking directly to work was something that I hadn’t considered before.

    So thanks (something of an understatement, considering the impact you had on my life last year). Please keep up the inspirational blogging and photography as I for one will be following.

    My microadventures last year:

  21. Give up now Al, apparently your so-called microadventures and inspiration for us all to get off our backsides is a “fad” and exercise isn’t that good for you. Pass me the cake…..

    Sorry for hijacking, but felt the need to share, with the similarly deluded, the biggest load of apparently serious nonsense I’ve read in a long time.

    If she’d stuck with gym memberships are a con or free, fresh air exercise is better fair enough, if a little unoriginal, but to suggest using one’s no use compared to not……sheesh.

    ‘Exercise sceptics’…..who knew?

  22. Excellent post Al, if you are healthy and able bodied then get out there and stop procrastinating! I have a lot of “micro-adventures” planned for 2011 and 2012 Al, I have taken some ideas for my own adventures from your site, keep going mate, all the best, Mark

  23. Broadly speaking health is luck and fitness is not; I think you had to differentiate.
    That Guardian article is spot on by the way.
    When I needed to lose weight, I found eating less worked well, but exercise did not. When I trained for a marathon, I found I (personally) had to eat a massive amount in advance to have the energy to do a 3 or 4 hour run. I did not lose weight.
    It is also spot on in that a treadmill is almost seems ludicrous to me: why not jog to the gym and back, not go in, and save money rather than paying money to run on a machine.
    Of course the article is not meant to be taken fully seriously – the author admits to her own gym membership, but there is an element of truth in it.
    It seems that I am relatively low key in my modest adventuring compared to you Al and other frequenters here, but that’s OK. To some people, say old, disabled, infirm, unfit, very fat, or just lazy, walking a mile might be an achievement and there’s nothing wrong with that. It’s about finding your own level of adventure.
    I really like the microadventure idea and, if I didn’t have a wife and daughter and a regular job and limited funds et etc, I too might join you in doing one a month. But certainly, I would like to do one a year.
    Last year I decided to cycle 100 miles in 1 day from my front door to my parent’s front door. I also raised a modest amount – £500 or something – for a charity. I had done no exercise for months and did about 3 practice runs of around 25,40,60 miles. I still wasn’t particularly fit when I did it, but it was enough.
    I am looking to do something this year as well, but I haven’t figured out what.

  24. This is a great article but actually acting on it doesn’t seem so easy. I love riding my bike, and I’d love to go on an epic ride. I once loved my career, now it’s just a means to an end. But nobody’s going to pay me to ride my bike, and I do like to eat. And few of us can adventure full-time.

    So quit the job, let the house, go adventuring for some period and worry about the career afterward?

    • Hi Hamish,
      I suppose the pragmatic compromise is to save up as much as you can, get a sabbatical from work for as long as you can, and ride as far as you can in that time. £100 can easily take you 1000 miles…

  25. Al, this is an excellent post and one that I have read multiple times in recent days. The tone of your article is excellent and it doesn’t leave much room for making excuses and moaning. As you know I went blind 12 years ago and six months ago I became paralysed from the waist down but making a living from an adventurous life is open to us all. You’ve reminded us that the choice is ours to take!

  26. All my adventures are micro because I have no desire to fly to anywhere ‘exotic’ or to be away from home for more than afew days. I have family an dogs that I prefer to be with
    Shropshire and the Welsh Marches does me. I cycle and walk it with friends and enjoy returning home after a few days to plan again.
    Jamie, above, is spot on.
    “To some people, say old, disabled, infirm, unfit, very fat, or just lazy, walking a mile might be an achievement and there’s nothing wrong with that. It’s about finding your own level of adventure.”

  27. I’m 40 and 5 years ago I struggled up a flight of stairs, now I’m 5 stones lighter and can cycle 50+ miles in a day fully loaded. And my life is so much better for it now, loving it.

    Kids I teach everyday are shocked that I have cycled to the school from Fulham, only 6 miles away. Yes at that age they are not really sure about distances. They sad part of it, is that so many of them have never spend a night in a tent.

    I would like to see scouting or the like to become cool again. Growing up I spend many a weekend, camping, walking and building a shelter in the forest. Most of my 20s and some of my 30s we spend supporting the local pub. But the last few years I have found my love for the out doors and cycle touring big time.

    So along with figuring out where to next, my manifesto this year, is to spend more time touring, camping, hiking, climbing, swimming etc etc.

  28. Eike Adams Posted

    As always, inspiring. I love the motto.
    And you are so right! I just spent 4 days walking a section of the South Coast path in blazing Cornish sun- fantastic recharge. I am also planning to cycle to a friend’s birthday in Tunbridge Wells and then camp there- you have to make these little adventures happen for yourself!

    Reaching people that aren’t yet converted, and especially children, is always a tricky one, so best of luck! I work with some obesity researchers and will mention it to them to see if we can come up anything- I’m a psychologist, and of course mental health is massively related to exercise and being in the great outdoors, as well as obesity.

    best of luck!

  29. Thought you might like this infographic: Sitting is killing you… really nicely done!

  30. few more bits and bobs you might find interesting…

    The World Health Organisation has named computer games as the single biggest cause of childhood obesity.

    Also I notice the Beeb has some great pages to encourage people to get active such as:
    this one
    this one
    and this one

  31. Hey,

    Just found your blog last week while being in Cusco, Peru. Awesome site, I read almost all of it 😉

    We are on our own little microadventure, travelling since 4 years, having the next 3 roughly planned out. You can find us at or simply facebook. Anyway, I hope to do everything a bit more professional and make my lifestyle my income as well by the time I’m 30 (still 6 years left) Thanksfor all the great posts, lately I hear only: Get a job or a “real” education… at least from my folk in germany

    best regards and good luck.

  32. Love your post. This is specially true in places like México where life is a tad more challenging than in more well-to-do nations. I believe this creates a culture of fear which pushes people in my country to disregard all risk and crave security (even if it means doing something you do not feel is your vocation) above all else.

    I’ve always wanted to make a living as an illustrator but had not had the courage to follow through. At 33 I felt tired, unsatisfied and as though I had cheated myself of something greater. I did not want my children to feel the same when they get to be my age.

    I am starting a two year bicycle tour of México to hopefully inspire my kids to believe that they are capable of dedicating their life to what they adore doing. I am illustrating my trip for a couple of newspapers and making a modest living as well as returning home every two weeks to love, and hopefully inspire my children.

    I believe what you are doing is important and share this ideal.



  33. Your year of microadventures project has been a great inspiration to us!

    We’re doing our own family-friendly version ; not as adventurous, but it’s great fun and gets us out and enjoying the outdoors together :o)

    Looking forward to finding out where you take this project next.

  34. 線インターネットのウェブサイト
    は、最高 への道を取得低コストバッグ。今お勧め、シャネル ハンドバッグ はリード、ホットな方法開発。 女の子のハンドバッグ は彼女がだれについてボリュームを話します。意識 ののどソート
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  35. Hey Al
    My mate Lee Peyton put me on to your site, flippin ace. I couldn’t agree more, get outside and stay outside.
    I don’t think we have to be that radical either, small changes make a huge difference. For instance I built a house a cpl of years back and when completed i really didn’t want a TV dish or aerial so i stuck the tv in the kids playroom and connected a dvd player this allowed both us as parents and my kids to take responsibility for what and when they chose to watch. With the coming of the Olympics last year and the BBC’s amazing Sport app I bought us a cheap Samsung (other brands exist etc etc) network TV.This is great and works the same, no longer do my kids or me (i’m a sucker for late night movies) have our lives interupted and dictated to by TV we/they choose what they want to watch if it fits in with all the other stuff we love to do.
    I’m trying to arrange a micro adventure for us all on the solstice, it will be nothing flash but it will involve self propelled transport, sleeping and eating outside and no doubt a box of sticking plasters. Looking forward to reading more of your posts. Thanks. Fraser



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